Pele's hair is a form of lava. It is named after Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. It can be defined as volcanic glass fibers or thin strands of volcanic glass. The strands are formed through the stretching of molten basaltic glass from lava, usually from lava fountains, lava cascades, and vigorous lava flows.
Wind often carries the light fibers high into the air and to places several kilometers away from the vent. It is common to find strands of Pele's hair on high places like treetops, radio antennas, and electric poles.
Pele's hair does not only occur in Hawaii. It can be found near other volcanoes around the world, for example in Nicaragua (Masaya), Italy (Etna), Ethiopia (Erta’ Ale), and Iceland, where it is known as "nornahár" ("witches' hair"). It is usually found in gaps in the ground, mostly near vents, skylights, ocean entry, or in corners where Pele's hair can accumulate.
It is not recommended to touch Pele's hair, because it is very brittle and very sharp, and small broken pieces can enter the skin. Gloves should be worn while examining it.
Pele's tears might occur with Pele's hair. They can tell volcanologists a lot of information about the eruption, such as the temperatures and the magma's path to the surface. Plagioclase starts to crystallize from the magma of Pele's hair at around 1,160 °C. Also, the shape of the tears can provide an indication of the velocity of the eruption, and the bubbles of gas and particles trapped within the tears can provide information about the composition of the magma chamber.
The strands are created when molten lava is ejected into the air and form tiny droplets, which elongate perfectly straight. It usually forms in lava fountains, lava cascades, and vigorous lava flows.
Pele's hair has a golden yellow color and looks like human hair or dry straw. In sunlight, it has a shimmering gold color. Length varies considerably, but is typically 5 to 15 cm, and can be up to 2 m. Hair diameter ranges from about 1 to 300 µm (0.001 to 0.3 mm), and therefore weight is accordingly low.
A manufactured version of Pele's hair made from basalt rock and recycled slag from steel manufacturing called mineral wool or stone wool is commonly used as a non-combustible, durable, dimensionally stable, UV stable, hydrophobic, vapour-permeable building insulation for residential, commercial, and high rise buildings.
A hydrophilic version is used as a low water usage, high yield, soil substitute for hydroponic agriculture.
Pele is known as the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, dance and volcanoes. The legends that tell how Pele first came to the Hawaiian Islands have a lot of versions, but it is believed that Pele's spirit lives in the crater of the Kilauea volcano, on the island of Hawaii. Pele appears as a spirit in many forms, and she is considered a negative harbinger. Most native Hawaiians state that they have had at least one encounter with her.
Hawaiians traditionally believe that they must live in harmony with all natural things, and that Pele will curse with bad luck people who take lava rock, sand, seashells, or other natural parts of the islands away with them, until they return these items to their rightful place. Additionally, federal law prohibits taking anything out of a national park. Each year large quantities of such objects are mailed back to Hawaii by people who believe they have received such bad luck.
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